Reconciling the Past: The World of Doom
The World of Doom! Alakabeth was released by Richard Garriott before Ultima was created, but has been included in Ultima continuity as a prequel to the series; the official “Ultima 0”.
This is the first article in which we will look at a specific Ultima title, addressing issues present within and how to reconcile them within the series. New articles will address different games or books. After each Age, we will take a look at the trilogy therein and address points of consistency, what needs to be addressed, and create a working history for the series. We will begin with the earliest games in the series, so first up are the four games in the Age of Darkness; starting with Akalabeth.
“‘Tis said that long ago peace and tranquility covered the lands, food and drink flowed freely, man and beast lived in peace, gold and silver abounded — it was the Golden Age of Akalabeth.
Mondain, second born of Wolfgang, a great king of old, wished to gain his brother’s inheritance, and so he used his great powers for evil. Many years had Mondain traversed the lands of Akalabeth spreading evil and death as he passed. He created deep dungeons, so deep and extensive that their lower depths had never been explored. In these dungeons he unleashed more evil. He sent thieves, skeletons and snakes to dwell near the surface, and daemons and balrogs to guard the depths. Now blood flowed freely in Akalabeth, and foul creatures soon came to roam near the surface. Mondain cast such sickness and pestilence upon Akalabeth, that both man and beast lived in constant fear. Thus was the Dark Age of Akalabeth.
There arose from the land a man, pure and just, to battle the Dark Lord. British, Champion of the White Light, did battle with Mondain deep within the labyrinth of dungeons, eventually driving him from Akalabeth forever. British of the White Light was proclaimed Lord British, Protector of Akalabeth. Alas, much damage had been suffered unto the lands. The Revival of Akalabeth has begun.
‘Tis thy duty to rid Akalabeth of the foul creatures which infest it whilst trying to stay alive!”
– from Akalabeth manual
Despite its simplicity, or perhaps because of it, Akalabeth has fewer issues with consistency with the rest of the Ultima series than the other games in the Age of Darkness.
The Land of Akalabeth
I believe it can reasonably be assumed that Akalabeth was the former name of the continent, which after the death of King Wolfgang and the banishment of Mondain, became known as the Lands of Lord British (and eventually, Britannia).
This makes some sense, as in Ultima 1, the other king of the Lands of Lord British is known as the Lost King. If this was a reference to Wolfgang, and his castle ruled by council in absentia, that could easily bridge the two games.
This also means that the entirety of Akalabeth takes place on one of the four continents of Sosaria.
The game itself generates the terrain of the world using the “lucky number” entered by the player, but this is simply for the replay value; we can probably assume the “map” of the game is actually the same as the Lands of Lord British.
According to the manual, British defeated Mondain and the wizard flees. Where did he go?
Ultima 1 introduces us to creatures created by Mondain’s magic: the lizardman and the minotaur. While there are plenty of swamps where Mondain could have captured lizards, the minotaur has its roots more specifically stated:
“As mentioned before, the evil Mondain experimented ceaselessly with the crossbreeding of man and beast in an effort to create the ultimate soldier. As if the creation of the dread Lizard Man was not enough, the vile wizard also mated the famed Baratarian fighting bull with some of his followers, resulting in the Minotaur — a horror that walks on two legs like a man, but which has the head and the cruel horns of a bull.”
– from The First Age of Darkness
Since he would need to be near Barataria to make use of the region’s famed bull, Mondain would have fled Akalabeth to the Lands of the Feudal Lords.
The only item in the game that isn’t a weapon is the magic amulet, which allows players to cast the Ladder Up or Ladder Down spells, fire a destructive blast of magic energy, or transform themselves (either into into a lizardman, greatly increasing their power, or a toad, reducing their abilities to almost nothing). The mage can decide which of these spells to cast when using the amulet, while fighters must cast randomly.
It can probably be assumed that this was a substitute for the mage actually learning spells throughout the game, either as a technical limitation or because the Circles of magic had not been codified yet. Since, arguably, this game takes place 1,000 years before Ultima I, spellcasting would have been quite different.
Ironically, two of the four spell effects in the game are identical to those in later Ultima games. The others may have been lost, or simply be variations of other spells that are common later.
Incomplete Dialogue and Interactivity
Except for obtaining quests, there is no real scripting in the game. Therefore, it is impossible to know exactly what a character said, or what words were present in a book. While this allows players to use their imagination and immerse into their character, it does make it difficult to establish an exact recreation of the events. Similar limitation extends throughout the first half of the Ultima games; Akalabeth is not significantly worse in this regard than the other Age of Darkness titles.
So does Akalabeth fit in with the series? So far, there seems to be few problems. Next we will look at Ultima I; stay tuned!